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Spanning vast, untouched wilderness and steeped in Gold Rush history, the Klondike-Kluane Loop is one of the Yukon Territory‘s most iconic drives. Starting and ending in the capital city of Whitehorse, the loop not only offers a glimpse into the Yukon’s storied past, where dreams of gold lured many a hopeful prospector, but also showcases the raw beauty and majestic wilderness for which the region is famed and a chance to learn about the First Nations people who steward this region.
As a child growing up in Alaska, my family used to visit the Yukon Territory during summer vacations; it was therefore with much anticipation that I returned to the Yukon in June 2023. My goal was to drive the Klondike-Kluane Loop, visiting many of the places I have only vague memories of – Whitehorse, Dawson City, Kluane Lake, and more.
The Yukon isn’t a place most people end up on accident, so I’m assuming if you’re planning a visit, it’s on purpose. It’s to discover what this unique corner of Canada (and the world) has to offer – and the Klondike-Kluane Loop is a great way to do that. Whether you do the loop in one drive as I did or you break it up into two segments as part of a trip to/from Alaska, this is the kind of road trip that sticks with you – trust me, as I still remember my earliest memories of the Yukon, twenty-plus years on!
Below you’ll find everything you need to plan your own Klondike-Kluane loop road trip. From daily activities to meals to overnight stops, this will set you up for an unforgettable experience and one that most people will never see. Safe travels!
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Champagne & Aishihik, Hän, Kwanlin Dün, Ta’an Kwäch’än, Tanacross, and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Klondike-Kluane Loop Map & Itinerary
Before jumping into the day-to-day details of this road trip, I thought it might be helpful to give you a birds-eye view of the route and the main stops you’ll be making:
As you can see from the map, the Klondike-Kluane Loop starts and ends in Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory. While I’ve suggested driving this route in a counter-clockwise direction, you can certainly go the other way instead, if it makes more sense for your travel plans or hotel availability – because to be honest, hotel availability is the limiting factor on this route.
After leaving Whitehorse, your hotel options become pretty limited, so you’ll have to work with what’s available in each community. I’ve provided suggestions based on where I stayed and other places that I considered. You’ll find those suggestions on each respective day.
Day 1: Whitehorse to Dawson City
On Day 1, you’ll head north from Whitehorse to Dawson City along the Klondike Highway; it’s a 6-hour drive so you’ll want to hit the road after breakfast.
(As an aside, you’ll notice I give you a full day in Whitehorse at the end of this itinerary – you could certainly spend Day 1 exploring Whitehorse and start your Klondike-Kluane road trip on Day 2 and shift the rest of the itinerary by one day.)
For breakfast, there are several great options in Whitehorse, but I recommend Burnt Toast Cafe. This popular spot has a crowd even on weekday mornings. If you don’t have time or are looking for a lighter fare, Kind Café has great coffee, delicious pastries, and yogurt/açai breakfast bowls. I had breakfast here on my day in Whitehorse (Day 7).
Okay, now that you’re fueled up, it’s time to hit the road. The junction between YT-1 (the Alcan) and YT-2 (the Klondike Highway) is a few miles – I mean kilometers – north of Whitehorse and easy to find. Once you make the turn onto the Klondike Highway, you’ll follow it all the way to Dawson City – easy peasy from a directions perspective!
Along the way, there are a few stops worth making.
- Montague Roadhouse Historic Site is easy to fly by, but is worth a quick stop; this historic roadhouse lets you imagine how travelers used to make their way through the Territory; these roadhouses were essential overnight stops and used to be spaced regularly along the highway.
- For lunch, I recommend stopping in Carmacks. This is a primarily First Nations community and the largest one along today’s route. I stopped at the Coal Mine Campground & Canteen for a hot ham and cheese sandwich and to stretch my legs.
- Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site is another great spot if you brought a picnic lunch or want to go for a short hike today. There’s a nice viewing deck at the parking area, or you can make the one-mile (1.6km) climb down the stairs to see the rapids up close.
- About 30 miles/40km before Dawson City, you’ll pass the Dempster Highway cut-off; there’s an informative sign that tells you more about this northbound route that runs past Tombstone Territorial Park and all the way to the Arctic Ocean in Northwest Territories. (This is probably a half-day adventure at least!)
Depending on how many stops you make, you’ll probably arrive in Dawson City in time for dinner. There are lots of options for where to eat in Dawson, but I went for something easy after a day on the road: Pan of Gold Pizza Shop has individual slices and pies available at good prices.
Before turning in, I recommend booking the Top of the Midnight Dome tour from The Klondike Experience; it’s usually offered at 7pm and 8:30pm daily during the summer. This short will give you a little bit of Dawson/Klondike history and ascends the Midnight Dome to give you sweeping views of Dawson, the Yukon and Klondike Rivers, and the surrounding territory. It’s a beautiful way to get oriented and end the day.
Day 2: Day in Dawson City
After a restful night of sleep, it’s time for a full day of adventure in Dawson City. Dawson is the second-most-populous community in the Yukon – and one of only 8 official cities and towns in the whole territory! It’s a great base for all kinds of adventure, and there are plenty of things to do in Dawson for even longer than a single day.
To inspire you based on what I did, I started out with a morning walk/run along the Yukon River, followed by breakfast at Riverwest Bistro; their breakfast sandwich was bomb and the green smoothie was a nice infusion of veggies to my carb-and-protein heavy travel diet.
After a quick shower, I made my way to the Parks Canada Dawson City Visitor Information Centre to get tickets for their Historic Downtown Walking Tour. I arrived about 30 minutes before the tour and this was probably too late – I was able to sneak onto the group as a solo traveler, but I recommend booking tickets earlier (the day before if possible). That tour was fantastic – our guide Jess took us into several historic buildings that are not open to the public otherwise, and it was a huge learning opportunity about Dawson’s history.
After the tour ended, I took a quick walk up to one of the historic cemeteries to spend a bit more time there, as we had just passed them briefly on the Midnight Dome bus ride the night before. From there, I had a little time to kill before digging into a huge lunch at Annabelle’s Noodle House.
In the afternoon, I drove out to Gold Dredge No. 4 for another Parks Canada tour, followed by a visit to Discovery Claim on Bonanza Creek, which is the location that kicked off the entire Klondike Gold Rush in the first place. I did this tour and visited the site as a kid and it was fascinating to see how much has changed.
After that, it was back into town for a bit more exploration: I made sure to join the Sourtoe Cocktail Club at the Sourdough Saloon, followed by a walk back down toward the river for ice cream and a peek inside the Dawson Camera Obscura (easily missed, but a fascinating little attraction!). Then I had a dinner reservation at BonTon & Company which was a true culinary highlight of my whole trip. I then swung by Diamond Tooth Gertie’s to watch the night’s first cancan show before turning in. It was a busy day – but I managed to see a lot of the best Dawson City has to offer!
Where to Stay: You’ll stay a second night at your Dawson accommodation; as a reminder, I recommend Dawson Lodge.
Day 3: Top of the World Highway/Taylor Highway
Day 3 started out early for me: I wanted to catch one of the first ferries across the Yukon River (at 7am) to reach the Alaskan border around its opening time (at 9am). Make sure to check all the timetables if you’re making an early start this day as the border doesn’t typically open until 9am (Yukon time) and the ferry doesn’t run at all hours – and can actually get busy as the morning gets going.
The first two hours of the day, you’ll be driving on the Top of the World Highway; this is possibly one of the most beautiful drives I’ve done in this part of the world, and felt a bit like having the road in Denali National Park all to yourself from a scenery perspective. After crossing the border into Alaska, it’s a short drive until you reach the end of the Top of the World Highway and can turn south on the Taylor Highway toward Chicken or north toward Eagle (3 hours from the junction). I don’t recommend adding on Eagle unless you have an extra day to make the drive out and back.
It’s another 45-60 minutes from the junction to Chicken, where you can stop for breakfast, to stretch your legs, and to see the sights. I’ve got a whole guide for visiting Chicken, but there’s not a whole lot to do – you can probably see everything in a few hours. Be sure to grab a coffee and cinnamon roll from the Chicken Creek Cafe before setting out, as there are virtually no amenities between here and your destination for the night.
Head two hours south on the Taylor Highway (watch out for road damage and cracks – the Taylor is notoriously bad!!) to reach the Alcan (AK-1), where you’ll turn east and start making your way back toward the Canadian border. Today is a long day of driving, but your eventual destination is Kluane Lake – either Silver City (on the southern shore) or Destruction Bay (on the western shore).
You could spend the night in Chicken if you’re able to secure overnight accommodations – there are a few, rustic options. You’ll just want to add an extra day to this plan so you still have time to enjoy the rest of the Klondike-Kluane Loop.
Where to Stay: Yukon Lake Cabins in Silver City is the best option by far; book 1-2 nights. Cabin rates are not published online; reach out via their website to inquire or book. (Talbot Arm Motel in Destruction Bay is your primary alternative; it’s where I stayed and it’s okay but not the best – I’m pretty sure it hasn’t changed at all in at least 20 years!)
Day 4: Day in Kluane National Park
If you love national parks, today is the day for you; while America’s national parks might get all the glory, Canada has some stunning ones too – and the park I consider to be the crown jewel is right in the heart of the Yukon. Kluane National Park is much like Denali, too – it’s largely undeveloped and inaccessible, forcing visitors to really work to see the wonder it has to offer.
To make the most of this day, here’s what I recommend: start out by exploring Silver City. This boom-and-bust ghost town dates back to 1903 and today you can see what remains: a handful of buildings in various states of ruin and disrepair. You can walk through the trees to discover more, or climb the ridge for a bird’s eye view and to see a memorial to four of the prospector pioneers who once called this area home.
After that, you can head down to the airstrip in Silver City to take a Kluane flightseeing tour with Icefield Discovery; their two-hour “Logan Up Close” flight will take you to Canada’s largest peak and attempt a landing on the icefield in the heart of the mountains that make up Kluane National Park. If you’ve read any of my resources for Denali National Park, you know that I always recommend flightseeing to get a true sense of the scale of these wild places.
There’s nothing in the way of restaurants in this area, so I recommend enjoying some of your road trip snacks or leftovers for lunch. You’ll need that fuel for the afternoon’s activity: hiking in Kluane National Park. A good starting point for this is at the Thechàl Dhâl’ (Sheep Mountain) Visitor Centre just off the highway near most trailheads in this part of the park.
Now you can absolutely go out hiking on your own, but it’s important to be aware that you’re in bear country; Parks Canada has resources about how to prepare for this, but as I was a solo traveler, I opted for something different: a private, guided hike. Yukon Guided Adventures is based in Haines Junction but guides are happy to drive up and hike in Kluane; my guide Lionel was incredible and we tackled the Sheep Creek trail in near-record time (by his experience).
Hiking is a great way to put the incredible scenery you saw from the air in perspective – if flightseeing shows you how big Kluane National Park is, hiking shows you how very little of the park can be reached by most visitors, leaving the rest pristine and protected.
After a long day of adventure, you could either spend a second night in the Kluane Lake area, or make your way to Haines Junction (a one-hour drive). If you choose the latter, you’ll probably arrive in time for dinner and the go-to place for locals and visitors is the Mile 1016 Pub.
Where to Stay: If not in Silver City or Destruction Bay for a second night, I recommend the Alcan Motor Inn at the intersection of the Alcan and Haines Highways. Rooms start from $107 per night; book on Booking.com.
Day 5: Haines Junction to Whitehorse
Whether you stayed in the Kluane area last night or already made the drive to Haines Junction, you’ll need to make your way there to start the day. If you’re looking for breakfast, Village Bakery is your best choice.
Haines Junction is primarily used as a jumping-off point for exploring other access areas in Kluane National Park – there are a few good hiking trails down here in the southern part of the park – but there are also other things to do in the area. This morning, depending on the weather, you might visit the Da Kų Cultural Centre to learn more about First Nations peoples in this area, head out to hike around or have a picnic at Kathleen Lake south of town – or both!
After lunch in town – of which your options are limited but Mile 1016 Pub is good for a return visit – it’s time to close the loop by making the almost two-hour drive to Whitehorse.
On the way to Whitehorse, I highly recommend making a stop at Long Ago People’s Place; you’ll need to reach out and arrange this in advance as visits to the property are by appointment only – but it is such an important experience to learn about Southern Tutchone First Nations culture through instruction, cooking, traditional and modern structures, and tools. If you arrange a private tour, you’ll probably only need 1-2 hours for your visit, but it’s a nice way to break up the drive and continue to immerse yourself in aspects of uniquely Yukon culture.
Depending on your departure from Haines Junction and whether you stop at Long Ago People’s Place, you might arrive in Whitehorse in time to visit the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre or take a stroll in Shipyard Park before dinner. Speaking of eating again, Woodcutter’s Blanket is the must-dine spot I recommend; get a reservation if you can because this place is popular and delicious.
Where to Stay: In Whitehorse, there are plenty of hotel options, but I recommend something a bit different; Black Spruce Cabins is ten minutes south of town but feels like you’re still out in the remote wilderness you’ve been exploring all week. Cabin rates are not published online but there is a two-night minimum; reach out via their website to inquire or book.
Day 6: Day in Whitehorse
Depending on your travel plans, you might have a half day or full day in Whitehorse before departing on to your next adventure. There’s lots to do in Whitehorse, but here are a few essentials I think all visitors should try and experience:
- As already mentioned, the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Center is a great place to learn about the distant past of this region.
- Touring the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site is another essential experience, especially if you weren’t able to take a historic tour of the SS Keno up in Dawson City.
- Miles Canyon is a unique natural wonder just south of town that ties into the First Nations people of this area, the Kwanlin Dün, who also have a cultural center that’s well worth a visit.
- North of town, Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs has replaced the once informal Takhini Hot Springs – but it’s still worth a visit especially if you’re a bit sore from hiking and driving so much.
This just scratches the surface, but as you can see there’s plenty to do for travelers of all interests and styles. I also have a list of places to eat in Whitehorse that can help you choose meals for as long as you have to visit.
And with that, you’ve done it: the entire Klondike-Kluane Loop! Have any questions about how to plan your own Klondike-Kluane road trip? Let me know in the comments below!